I back a lot of Kickstarter games. Some, including my better half, would say too many. I am running out of creative ways of storing the latest ‘All-In’ pledge and all of the miniatures that inevitably come with it. Occasionally though, it’s not a mountain of plastic that catches my eye. Sometimes it is an attractive art style, a neat concept or an interesting setting. It’s a Wonderful World comes under the umbrella of all three of these.
Is it Drafty in Here?
It’s a Wonderful World funded back in summer 2019. It is a card game for 1-5 players that will have each player trying to build their own little empire. At its core, it is a drafting game. Think Sushi Go or 7 Wonders. Players will start with a hand of cards, pick one, and then pass the rest around the table. Everybody will reveal the card they chose, much to the interest of the other players and then each player will get a new hand of cards from another player. You then pick one from this hand, pass it around the table and reveal what you have chosen. And then repeat.
Each choice will have one less option for you to choose from as the cards get whittled down around the table. I do love a good drafting game. It forces players to make some tricky choices if there is more than one card in a hand they want. Depending on how early in the draft it is, there is a chance that card comes back around to you. But do you take the risk? There is the chance that it may be useful to another player, or worse yet, they may see that it will really benefit you and take it to deny it to you. All is fair in love, war and card drafting.
Once you have your cards it is time to decide how you would like to play them. In It’s a Wonderful World, you have two options. Firstly, each card has a recycling value which will allow you to discard the card and then take one of the five basic resource types. Your other option is to try and build the card. Each card requires a bunch of resources to build. But once built will give you some kind of benefit each turn and maybe a little bonus when you first complete it too.
You Gotta Spend Money to Make Money
This payment each turn takes the form of resource production. After all of the players have decided what to do with their cards, everybody produces resources. The five basic resources are produced in order one at a time. Every resource produced needs to either go onto a card that is being built or onto the player's empire card. Each player has a few resources that their empire produces from the start. But after you have completed some buildings, you can really get the resources rolling in.
If you can complete a building early in the production phase that produces resources later in the production phase, it will be able to produce the turn that it's built. In a game with only four rounds, this can be critical! Especially as the person who produces the most of each resource gets a supremacy bonus. This bonus will be either a general or a financier, these are the two people on the box cover by the way. Some buildings require one of these two in order to finish construction. So they are very important, and even if you don’t use them for building, they are worth points at the end of the game.
The last resource is Krystallium and this can only be produced as a bonus to building something or by trading in five resources on your empire card. Krystallium is required by some of the most powerful buildings but it can also be spent as a wild resource to fill in for any other resource in the game.
These three advanced resources are the only ones that persist from round to round, everything else vanishes off into the ether. This use it or lose it approach to resource production means players should try and be as clever as they can with their choices of what to build. A well-balanced selection of buildings should mean very little goes to waste.
That is essentially how to play. To win you need the most points. Some buildings will grant you a set value of points. Others will give you some multiple of points for each of a particular building type in your empire. It’s pretty straight forward.
Accepting All Applicants
What is really nice about It’s a Wonderful World is that it works well at all player counts. I can think of very few drafting games that play solo and not many more that play well at two without large modifications to the rules. Not the case here, as both solo and two-player modes require very small rules modifications to work.
And that is pretty much it. It’s quite a simple game and the joy comes from spotting the combos that will slot neatly into your empire. There is one elephant in the room though. If I asked most board gamers to name a card drafting empire builder, most people would say 7 Wonders. So how does It’s a Wonderful World stack up against this giant of the board game world?
I’d say favourably. 7 Wonders has some advantages, for sure. The higher player count shouldn’t be discounted, (although an expansion to It’s a Wonderful World also takes it up to 7 players). 7 Wonders definitely has more interaction than It’s A Wonderful World. With the war mechanic as well as the neighbour resource trading, you are definitely more invested in what at least some of the table is doing in a game of 7 Wonders.
It's Lonely at the Top
It’s a Wonderful World is definitely a more solitary experience. Outside of drafting cards and getting the supremacy bonuses for production, there is little interaction between players. Competing for the supremacy bonuses feels like the most interactive part of the game, but that it is not as engaging as the war mechanics found in 7 Wonders.
Beyond that though, I have to say I prefer the moment-to-moment gameplay of It’s a Wonderful World to 7 Wonders. The fact that buildings can be built over successive turns means that every card feels like it is a wonder. It also means that you have a little more flexibility with how you progress. There was always that turn in 7 Wonders when every card you draw just doesn’t work for you, or perhaps you couldn’t buy the resources you need.
That doesn’t really happen with It’s a Wonderful World. Each of the cards can be discarded for a particular resource. If you don’t get the resource you need that way, you can always trade-in what you do have for a wild resource. It may not be the most efficient way to play but it does mean you never feel like you’ve got no way to progress.
Progress is another interesting point of comparison. As 7 Wonders has its distinct age decks, there is a real feeling of progression as your society advances. Not so much with It’s a Wonderful World as all cards can show up from the beginning of the game. This means that a late-game card can show up in your opening hand. You can take this in one of two ways, get annoyed that it is something you can’t use, or look at it as a goal to build towards. That is probably the biggest indicator of if you will like this game over 7 Wonders. It’s a Wonderful World feels more free form in how you progress. If you want to build that very expensive time machine on turn one, then more power to you! You probably won’t win though.
Cubes, Cubes and More Cubes
I’d love to say that the theming of the cards comes through in how your society progresses. In reality, it all kind of fades into different coloured cards that produce different coloured cubes. I’ve never once found myself thinking, “I need to find a card that produces science so I can build my cloning vats”. I’m a lot more likely to be thinking, “I need greens so I can build my card that makes blues!” Theme isn’t everything, but at least the art is lovely.
So, there we have it. I think this is a worthy challenger to 7 Wonders’ crown of medium weight drafting games. Personally, I’d rather play It’s a Wonderful World over 7 Wonders. The setup is quicker. The rules explanation is quicker. And although the player interaction isn’t as strong, it is still a really fun game that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.
The small differences in the starting empires can really change up how you progress and what you are looking to build to score points. This gives the game some decent replayability too. I think there is room in a collection for both It's a Wonderful World and 7 Wonders. I certainly won't be getting rid of one of them as it stands. There is enough differentiating them to make them their own games.
I am very excited to see how It's a Wonderful World evolves with its upcoming expansions.